Talk: Unix Chat program
Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Chat and communication is an interesting topic, and a challenging problem back in the 80s when computers first entered the consumer market.

There wasn't such thing as inter-system operability. In short, if you were using a Mac, there is no way you can talk to another person on Windows. (since the internet/email wasn't really there yet) Alright this is a bad example, let me write a short summary of what it's like back then.

You have something called a mainframe, or workstation. Computers are really expensive then, so multiple users would share 1 computer. (imagine multiple users logged into your computer and using it at the same time, but not directly affecting each other) Each user has a screen that connects to the computer, and they could execute commands to it. Of course, the computation powered is shared among the number of users. And the wonderful Operating System is called Unix. 
(Windows/Mac OS are created afterwards for user-friendliness)

During the era that doesn't have internet, how would you chat with another user on the same computer?
Introducing, Talk.
(such a creative name)


So, the thing is that you are chatting locally with another user, within the same computer. It's hard to imagine now these days as usually only 1 user is using the computer at anyone time. But it's the norm back in the 80s. So how would you achieve such a situation currently? 

Using SSH.

In short, it's like a direct connection into the machine. With the correct login information, you would be able to do anything on the computer, as if you're directly using it. 

I issue a command to talk to another user, say lelouch

And this would show up on his screen.

Then I respond to him, by saying that I want to talk to lordofgeeks

So, the most amusing thing about this is that it's all in real time. So the other user can see every single letter, your typos, the backspaces.

real time conversation!

What's the point of this?
First of all, it's amusing to see everything in real time. There's no more "_user_ is typing a message", and then you get some random bullshit because you know that it doesn't take that long to write such a short message!
Secondly, it's secure. For most intents and purposes, unless you're a terrorist being hunted, you could safely share your secrets/passwords in here. No one would ever know, it's your own little private chatroom.
Thirdly, sexting. This is like a sexting taken to the max level of geekhood. 

But then you'll say, "But isn't sexting done on a phone?"
And this is precisely why I'm going to demonstrate it on my phone. (Android is based on Linux after all)


Yes, you can do this over the internet. Which makes it a legitimate use for sexting. Again, it is still in real time. And other users will see it like this.

oooo yeah sexyuser

Alright, enough jokes. Thing is, it isn't very practical, not when we have so much more advanced technologies out there. I asked myself, when would be the time where I really would choose this over Facebook messaging, texting, MSN, email or any other forms of communication?

When I want to share passwords.
And, when I have a 10KB/s connection.

Because of the nature of it, it would still work really well with a 5KB/s connection. Of course, I would have to do some testing when I'm free, but I am rather confident about it. It's those kind of novelty things where it's really cool to have and kind of useful, but most of the time just plain useless. 
(like a polaroid, just sayin')

Of course, now that I've done with this, I'm going to try and setup an IRC server. Mainly to learn about it. I have dabbled in some IRC fun when I was younger, but I was too young to understand anything at that point of time. Don't me wrong, IRC is still alive and kicking, it isn't as obsolete as you would think of it to be, but I'm pretty sure none of the kids born in the 2000s would know what the fuck it is.

In conclusion, it's a shame I wasn't born in the 70s ~ 80s. I would've learnt so much more.

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